The president of the United Mine Workers of America says a potential agreement between the union and Patriot Coal on wages and benefits could supersede any decision from a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge.

“The best place to resolve this is not in St. Louis in that courtroom,” said union president Cecil Roberts. “Patriot and the union both are committed here to continue to bargain and to try to reach resolution.”

At this point, though, Roberts admitted the two sides are not close on retiree and healthcare benefits for thousands of employees. Patriot most recently proposed a voluntary employee benefit association, or VEBA, so the company would not have to directly provide promised benefits.

The talks are continuing with U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kathy Surratt-States scheduled to rule before May 29 on Patriot Coal’s proposed reorganization under Chapter 11. A five-day court hearing was held last week.

Patriot contends it’s being crushed under “unsustainable labor related legacy liabilities,” but most of the retirees who will be affected by the restructuring never worked for Patriot.

Roberts said Peabody Coal is to blame for what he calls a fraudulent transaction that set up Patriot for failure. When Patriot Coal was formed, he said, too many of Peabody’s liabilities were moved there.

“What we need to try to do here is to try to fashion some agreement, if possible,” Roberts said.

“If it’s possible to reach some kind of agreement, (we need to) collectively challenge Peabody, who created this mess and who has lots of money to pay these bills and should be paying them.”

Roberts was a guest on Tuesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

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  • m

    Ax u r a FOOL

  • Smitty

    Your Dad had a right to his opinion, he just happens to be wrong.

    Unconvinced & Luke,
    You don't have a clue. You obviously watch too much Fox News. Yes, you have drank the
    kool-aid. What fools!

  • Jim

    I would think the non-union workers are more concerned than they are letting on. they know if Patriot makes drastic cuts to the union op's they will get cut even more on wages and benefits. I believe if Patriot gets by with this the average wage could end up at around fifteen dollars an hour.And the company can't stand it because the UMWA miners have a say so about safety. Yes the non-union op's are doing good but at what cost to the workers.

  • Luke

    The UMWA still prefers Mob Rule to the Rule of Law. The individual miners as creditors of Patriot are the real parties in interest insofar as earned benefit are concerned not the Union. Let the individual miners select a representative, i.e. an attorney, to bargain on their behalf. Let the Union protect its collective bargaining contract with Patriot. The interests of the individual miners and the UMWA are not the same in this case.

  • Unconvinced

    I don't understand the Union, they spent all this money forming rallies and pay for Cecil gettting put in jail.... The union has a ton of money why could they take care of their retired worker benefits?

    Patriot is going bankrupt, doesn't have money to pay the bills, maybe the expensive union dues should go to helping out their members

  • Smitty

    I agree Chris. Ask the non-union guys who is looking out for them. The company already stuck it to them and they had NO say.

    I'm sticking with the union!

    All workers need to wise up, stand up and join a union.

    • Ax Man

      If the unions had done their job, they would not be having this problem today. My Dad started in the mines in 1903, he was thirdteen years old and help start the the unions in the twenties, he retired in 1957, he said many times that the union leaders were nothing but crooks and said if he had it do over he would never support a group of crooks

    • Jeremy 5958

      Couldn't have said it any better than that. UMWA

  • Chris

    Thank God we have Cecil Roberts leading our union. I have all the faith in the world in him. God bless you President Roberts!

  • derek

    Don't take less than a full contract agreement agreed upon yrs ago. Don't sell us out.

  • Joe

    These benefits for workers and families, active and retired, were promised via legal and forthright negotiation. These were promises made in which the workers kept their end of the deal.